Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Departure Lounge

by Chad Taylor

What is it about New Zealand? Why so dark and moody? (For that matter, why so many movies about lesbians?) A former co-worker, who lived awhile in N.Z., told me the weather there is remarkably similar to the weather here in western Oregon — which begs the question: why isn't anyone comparing the Chad Taylor to Portland's own master of moody, Chuck Palahniuk? (The cover copy does mention: Raymond Chandler, Anne Rice, Jean-Paul Sartre, Nick Cave, Russell Banks, Paul Auster, and Ross MacDonald — none of which comparisons ring true for me, beyond the basic noirishness.)

I think what's up with the comparisons is that someone wants this book to be a Mystery (as opposed to regular old fiction); the word "mystery" also pops up several times in the blurbs, as does "thriller." While I will cop to the fact that there is a mystery of sorts driving some of the action, it's actually a stale mystery that, however much it haunts and motivates the central characters, never gets solved and doesn't need to — in fact, were the mystery to be solved, this story could not be told.

I'd call it more of a psycho-drama, which of course makes me want to say it's "taut" (because that's what one says about such things), but in fact it's rather languid and murky and decidedly not a thriller. We delve pretty deeply into one character's mind, only to realize we've just scratched the surface: the book's leitmotif is the significance of absence: everyone can see what's there, but what's not there is where it's at.


Anonymous said...

Now this is one of these books that I gave up on about half way through. It's only 'taut' about half way down the rope and then the weight of the narrative kind of bogs down. Maybe I stopped reading too soon?

Christopher Cuttone said...

There's an explosion at the end, but it somehow manages not to be exciting. Reading this book is a bit like watching a slow-motion car wreck — a tad excruciating. But it was so short, so I didn't have a problem with the bogginess.